Taiwan’s Most Primitive Paradise
Text and photos Howard Chen
LANYU (literally translating into “Orchid Island”) original name was Pongso-no-Tawo, meaning “people of the island” until 1946, when it was renamed after the local Phalaenopsis orchids.
The island, located in one of Taiwan’s east coast most remote islands, is accessible by sea or air. Daily Air is the only airline to offer flights from Taiwan Island through Taitung Airport in Taitung City to Orchid Island through its Lanyu Airport. The flight duration is half an hour and the daily frequency is dependent on weather conditions. Ferry trips to the island are available from Taitung City’s Fugang Fishery Harbor. One can also hop onto a bus to the Tomioka fishing port to board the various ship classes into the island. For locals, the above route is the most commonly planned one. For foreigners planning a trip via Kenting in southern Taiwan, a route via Houbihu is also possible on a fishing boat; however, this takes nearly three hours of sailing time.
Home to the unique Tao aboriginal tribe, Lanyu offers some 40 kilometres of spectacular coastline. Its waters offer a year round clear visibility of 30 metres of infinite blue. Its waters boast a grand visibility of 30–50 metres all year round, allowing visitors to enjoy the infinite blue. With a consistent water temperature at 22–29°C, the region’s seabed topography offers rich, spectacular blue holes, faults, submarine canyons and other complex terrain. The best season to visit this paradise is from February to May.
Orchid Island’s largest dive spots include the Eight Generations Bay wreck, resting on the seabed at a depth of 40 metres. This magnificent undersea wreck reclines quietly and offers divers a genuine photographic adventure. I love to use a full-frame DSLR 5D2 camera with a 15mm fisheye, along with high-intensity photography lights. This particular sea shuttle service, carrying Korean nationals, was an unfortunate victim of a typhoon, causing it to sink. Fortunately, all crew members and passengers escaped unharmed.
My favourite dive site is known as Shuangshi Rock. Located north of Orchid Island and lying outside the reef, this site habours dragon snappers and eagle rays, surrounded by coral reefs, and it is constantly teeming with golden perch. It is sites such as this that have led many to wonder how Taiwan can retain such an original and natural offshore ecology.
Another popular dive spot is the Blue Hole, located outside Kaiyuan Harbor’s Blue Grotto. Accessing the hole via one of its three entrances, divers can discover spectacular corals, countless species of reef fish and multitudes of brightly coloured sponges. Continue to fin out to sea and you are greeted by huge sea fans, at least 4.5 metres tall, sitting on subsea cliffs at a depth of about 35 metres – a highly recommended scene to savour.
For macro photography enthusiasts, diving at night at the “coconut oil port” is what dreams are made of. Tiny creatures that are part of the nighttime revelry include the most amazing pom pom (boxer) crabs (Lybia tesselata), which brandish anemones in their claws for defence – like boxing gloves. At the same time, some of Lanyu’s dive sites are known for their strong currents, carrying large migratory fish such as tuna, barracuda and eagle rays.
The 25th anniversary of the largest and longest running dive show, Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) is set to occur on the 11-14th April 2019. Centred on the theme – Plastic free Future, ADEX is more than just a dive show with its commitment to the environment. Among an exciting lineup of programs, attendees can look forward to a Future Forward Series of Panel Discussion on the Single-Use Plastic Conundrum in Asia, on 13th April.
So join us at the event, get inspired and for all you know, you might just liberate the inner diver in you! More details of the event here.